Victor Valley Family Resource Center claims city is trying to ‘banish residents released on probation’
By Rene Ray De La Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted May. 7, 2016 at 10:15 AM
HESPERIA — The ACLU Foundation of Southern California has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Victor Valley Family Resource Center against the city of Hesperia and San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon.
The nonprofit VVFRC, which is led by founder and CEO Sharon Green, is challenging Hesperia’s attempts to “unlawfully restrict” housing and support services for “individuals with criminal records,” according to an ACLU SoCal news release.
The Hesperia-based resource center connects individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to transitional supportive housing. The suit argues that efforts by the city to shut down three transitional homes are intended to “banish residents released on probation.”
“VVFRC attempted to resolve this matter on several occasions” with the city and the Sheriff’s Department “without going to the extent (of filing a lawsuit),” Green told the Daily Press. “Unfortunately, they left us no alternative but to have a lawsuit filed.”
The lawsuit “argues that several Hesperia municipal codes which were used to target VVFRC violate both the California and U.S. Constitutions,” the ACLU said.
“The city’s efforts to shutter these homes is little more than an attempt to banish individuals with criminal records from their community,” said Adrienna Wong, a staff attorney with the ACLU. “That’s unacceptable and violates the California Constitution and the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.”
Several VVFRC clients are named as plaintiffs in the suit and a city code enforcement officer is named as an additional defendant.
Green, who is also a pastor, serves on three county-based agency boards, including chair of Homeless Provider/Partnership Network, member on the Interagency Council on Homelessness and member of the Reentry Collaborative Board.
Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Jodi Miller and Hesperia spokeswoman Rachel Molina told the Daily Press their agencies could not comment on the lawsuit as they had not yet been served.
According to the ACLU letter, the county’s Probation Department currently refers individuals to the VVFRC when they have no place to go. These individuals are sent to the resource center, which provides transitional housing for up to one year, as well as meals, case management services, and permanent housing placement.
“In some cases, Hesperia enforced a code prohibiting residential structures that house more than one individual on probation who are not related by blood or marriage, violating the individual plaintiffs’ right to association,” the ACLU letter said. “One of VVFRC’s transitional homes was forced to close as a result, and the remaining homes may face the same fate.”
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